Are Jehovah's Witnesses a Cult?

The 8 Biggest Shocks From the Elders’ Secret Handbook

Elders in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses are provided with a book of instructions on how to handle certain matters within the congregation, especially “judicial matters,” meaning sins that may warrant their counsel. This book also instructs them on the appointment of new elders, what to do in case of a natural disaster, and so on.

Called “Shepherd the Flock of God,” the book is super-secret and for the eyes of the elders only. However, I have a copy myself; this is the age of the internet, nothing is secret. Consider the most surprising information inside, some of which I’ve already discussed in other posts.

1.  Elders can cover their own serious sins.

You can read about this in this post.  Elders who committed serious sins “a few years ago,” as long as they have some vague sign of “god’s blessing” can continue to be elders with no sanctions.

2.  Married women have no rights to confidentiality, but elders cannot reveal details when a man has committed adultery.

Read about this in this post.  Elders are instructed to preserve the “confidentiality” of cheating men, whereas married women are not allowed to even meet with the elders without their husbands present.

3.  You can’t trust your family to even be near the book.

Note part of a letter that announced this new version of the book:

We would like to emphasize the importance of keeping these new textbooks secured and confidential… The textbooks should not be left on tops of desks or in other places where they are easily accessible by family members or other individuals… other individuals should not have any opportunity to read the information.

So it’s not enough to simply tell your family that it’s confidential; you need to avoid leaving it where it may be “easily accessible.” Don’t even give anyone the “opportunity” to read the information, as their promise to leave it alone means nothing, and trust is nonexistent in a Christian household.

4. Women and non-JWs shouldn’t even touch the book, and men who aren’t elders need to be watched when they handle the book.

This information was sent to elders after the release of the book:

Since the release of the new Shepherding textbook, several elders have asked about the possibility of having their textbook spiral bound… If he has another baptized brother who is not an elder do the work for him, the elder must watch while the work is being done. Outside companies, unbelievers, or sisters are not permitted to do this work. The material in the book is confidential, and confidentiality must be preserved.

Remember that these women, the men who aren’t elders, and the families mentioned above are also Jehovah’s Witnesses, and were all provided the same bible as everyone else. Nowhere in the bible does it say that only elders or ones with oversight in the congregation should have special information that is not given to others.

However, for some reason a book written by imperfect men is kept secret from everyone in the congregation. If god thought his word was good enough for every lowly member of the congregation, why wouldn’t the words of men be good enough for everyone to see as well?

5.  The entire process of appealing a disfellowshipping is kept hidden from accused persons.

A person is disfellowshipped (excommunicated) when they commit what is considered a serious sin, and after a judicial committee of at least three elders meets with this person, and determines that he or she does not appear to be repentant. This disfellowshipping is no light matter; it involves a severe form of shunning, even from a person’s own family members.

When it’s decided that someone should be disfellowshipped, they can appeal. They then meet with a new committee of men from a nearby congregation, who will review their case. If this new committee decides that the disfellowshipping decision stands, the book says:

When the disfellowshipping is upheld, there is no further arrangement for appeal. However, if an individual persists in believing a serious error in judgment has occurred, the appeal committee should inform him that he may submit his allegations in writing to the appeal committee within seven days for transmittal to the branch office. The appeal committee should not mention this provision unless the individual indicates that he believes a serious error in judgment has occurred. 

A branch office is a type of headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses that oversees hundreds of congregations. So, if this appeals committee agrees to the disfellowshipping, they don’t tell the person that they can contact the branch office unless that person indicates that they think there has been a mistake. A person in this situation may accept the decision of the committee simply because they assume their appeals are exhausted.

I would need to ask the purpose of keeping this option quiet; is the branch simply too busy to worry about these local matters? We’re talking about something that impacts a person’s entire life, and their relationship with the Christian congregation. What is more important than that?

6. A confession of wrongdoing is not always good enough.

In the section that covers evidence needed to establish wrongdoing:

Confession (admission of wrongdoing), either written or oral, may be accepted as conclusive proof without other corroborating evidence. (Josh. 7:19) There must be two witnesses to a confession, and the confession must be clear and unambiguous. For example, a statement from a married Christian that his mate is “Scripturally free” would not by itself be viewed as a clear confession of adultery.

The book does say that a JW whose spouse has confessed to adultery may write a letter to the elders, explaining why they feel the confession is valid, but the elders need to still consider if they believe it to be genuine.

I will agree that some offhand, flippant statement is not always the same as a real confession, but saying that there must be two witnesses to an otherwise believable confession is outright ridiculous. I have also heard of cases where the elders have told women that their unfaithful husband’s verbal confession was not good enough, sometimes even after he’s left the home.

This begs the questions, What else do they need, and who are they to determine if a confession is sincere and genuine? If a woman (or man of course) says that a spouse confessed to adultery, I can understand wanting to call up the spouse and confirm this confession, but if the person doesn’t talk to them, what else is there? The book does say that elders may leave it up to the innocent spouse to decide if the confession is enough, but again, there have been many cases where elders have made the decision themselves. The innocent mate is then left in a sort of marital limbo, as they are not free to remarry unless adultery has been proven.

7.  Elders are told that they sit in judgement of others.

Page 9 of the book says:

“To be an effective elder, you must care for Jehovah’s precious sheep in the same way that he does—with loving-kindness, impartiality, and merciful judgment.”

I realize that elders may need to sometimes judge situations or circumstances that arise, and determine if someone may deserve disfellowshipping or shunning, but they are in no position to judge people themselves. The paragraph right before this says plainly that elders “cannot read the hearts,” which means they cannot properly judge anyone.

Outside attitudes and actions are not always a good indication of what is in someone’s heart, and elders are imperfect and often prone to self-righteousness, shortsightedness, misogyny, the love of power, and on the other side of the coin, downplaying certain sins or otherwise being too complacent. The bible, at John 5:22, also says that god has entrusted the judging to his son, not to local elders.

8.  Prayers are not offered with disfellowshipped ones present.

When judicial committees meet and they determine that someone will be disfellowshipped, they excuse that person before saying a closing prayer among themselves. When a disfellowshipped person asks to be reinstated, the committee will say a prayer before that person arrives for their meeting. If they decide to reinstate the person, they can then say a prayer with that person present, after that decision has been made.

This is confounding. Disfellowshipped ones are not allowed to participate in religious services or preaching, but prayer? If the goal is to reestablish this person’s relationship with Jehovah, and bring him or her back into the fold, wouldn’t prayer be necessary and even advised?

The general thinking with JWs is that disfellowshipped ones have willfully turned their backs on god so they are, in essence, dead to him, but we’re again back to the point about judging someone. They’re not dead yet, so I would think elders especially would want to do everything possible to bring them back. The scriptures say to not greet such a person or eat with them, but this advice is so that their conduct doesn’t influence you; how can praying with them be damaging to the elders, the “spiritual shepherds”?

These are the 8 most confounding and even a bit shocking things I found in the book. When you think about how insulting these procedures are to women, the families of elders, and those who are disfellowshipped, and see how it gives special treatment to men and elders in the congregation, perhaps it’s no wonder that they prefer to keep it secret.

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13 replies »

  1. I’ve been shunned years ago …there was no judical committee , only 2 elders visited just to inform me that I have to fine tune some opinion concerning their believe if not I will be faced by a judical committee.
    The very same day I wrote a letter Informing them that I’m not able anymore to continue as a jw.
    I was pioneer for 16 years I had 50 biblical students
    But it was the right decision to leave in order to protect my child from the lies.
    Yes lies, with hard proof related to the dicipline of many of them plus the wrong interpretation of the Bible
    I had many violent discussion’s with elders specialy over the bible doctrines.
    Now I’m free.
    The freedom worse it .I use t bee a sheep but now I’m a man.

  2. I was a JW and a full time pioneer at a very young age. I was unable to keep to their beliefs, such as living forever on earth in paradise. I I told the elders and was shunned. I could no longer go door to door telling a lie to people. Holding on to a belief of living forever is a false belief and trying to recruit others by playing on their dreams and hopes of immortality is very wrong. We all wish to live forever and though out history men have searched for some magical thing that gives you everlasting youth. This is not a true bible teaching. The only things we should tell other is to love God, love your neighbor and teach others the same. This was what Crist said was the most important thing of all. In this contains the fulfilment law of God. Most of the jw’s are good people whom truly believe in what they preach, but you are not allowed to question anything. I did question and discovered a greater truth, God is in all of us and all around us the price has already been paid for our sins, and as long as you try to be a good person you are accepted by God.

  3. Another lie is that they used to deny that they forecast 1975 as the end of the world. But it was in the text of yellow book, in 1960’s written, produced and printed by the Watchtower Bible Tract society; I forget the title but I had a copy of if until I gave it to charity the other year (Life Everlasting or some such title). I was shocked on finding on the society’s website a denial that they ever forecast Armageddon as 1975. RE shunning: it ought to be outlawed by the states, UK/EU/US and others) as a type of harassment. Harassment is a criminal offence in the UK, not sure if it is in the states. I am not a JW, but have been shunned by JW relatives most of my life despite that I am an upstanding citizen, a good neighbour (According to my neighbours) have helped another relative with mental illness for 34 years (none of my JW relatives ever even ask after her despite that she is a JW), and even have a completely clean driving licence. (I know of some JW’s who do not have clean driving licences). These relatives look down on me as though I am engaged in some sort of evil practice! They also do not bother with an elderly aunt who is 91, (staunch) Methodist, whilst I have visited her for over 30 years. They never bother even to contact her, never ask how she is. This uncaring behaviour is indecent, unsociable, etc., let alone Christian.

    • How can any one on the 1970 committee of G/B ever say that 1975 was not marked as the worlds end, I was there a young kid my family who were doing that many hours on field service ( knocking on doors) we had no other life, I would go to school and then meetings then preach work my life only ever saw was the inside of watchtowers etc., as of the other members they sold businesses their homes ,it was one great buzz! a lot of members were out preaching then I remembered all went quiet few stopped attending meetings some of my friends I never saw again. it was not until years later my mum filled in the gaps of my youth and this was all around 1970, so for any past JW OR G/B TO SAY WE DID NOT PUBLISH THIS MESSAGE ARE COMPLETE CRANKS.

  4. William Tyndale gave his life to make the Bible available to everyone, common person and peasant alike. But the Shepard the flock of god book is not to be seen by anyone other than elders?!!!?

  5. The biggest lie I found out this year is that God’s name is not really Jehovah. His name is unknown and if ever we are to attempt a pronunciation of it from the Tetragrammaton, it would be Yaweh or Yahwah.
    Funny thing is I realised this fact while reading the origin of the name Jehovah for the new jw bible appendix. The only justification for the use of that name is because it has a long history in the English language,….. How long? Since the 16th century.
    If at all Gods name must be pronounced, I would like to believe a form most likely in the Hebrew form to be used.

  6. I have seen this secret book. The elder best friend of my ex ministerial husband let us see it when he dropped the bomb that my child porn wife beating cheating piece of shit husband was fixing to be appointed. I will pay for the book and shipping just put it in my hands. It was so satisfying after I got out of the psych ward for attempted suicide to tell them all to go fuck themselves. I HATE THEM!!!!!

    • Lol.. I love it. You go girl. Fuck all them bastard idiots. They stole 10 yrs of my time. My goal in life now is to bring them bastards down.

  7. #8. If prayer is such a good thing, then why is it not offered with the shunned person, especially if they are making efforts to come back? The more I read your blog and others like it, the more I am convinced of never, ever, ever going back.

    • That’s my point exactly. Their attitude should be trying to bring that person closer to Jehovah, but they act as if they’re diseased and have decided among themselves that Jehovah doesn’t want to hear from them. It makes no sense and is very shameful.

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